Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Dangerous Women

Rate this book
London, 1841.

Two hundred Englishwomen file aboard the Rajah, the ship that will take them on a three-month voyage to the other side of the world.

They're daughters, sisters, mothers - and convicts. Transported for petty crimes.

Except one of their number is a secret killer, fleeing justice.

When a woman is mortally wounded, the hunt is on for the culprit.

But who would attack one of their own, and why?

Based on a true story, Dangerous Women is a sweeping tale of confinement, loss, love and, above all, hope in the unlikeliest of places.

400 pages, ebook

First published February 16, 2021

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Hope Adams

4 books38 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
533 (16%)
4 stars
1,298 (40%)
3 stars
1,106 (34%)
2 stars
235 (7%)
1 star
49 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 572 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,195 reviews40.6k followers
July 18, 2021
After finishing this heartbreaking, moving, thought provoking novel which truly shakes you to the core, only thing on my mind is going to National Gallery of Australia for seeing the giant quilt created by these women hanging on the wall.

The book is created based on true stories of 180 women who were convicted mostly from petty crimes and released from prison to set sailed to Rajah/ Tasmania: a historical vessel for starting a new life. There are also 10 children on the board. And in this fiction version one of the women is murderer because there is attempted murder mystery added into story : one of the women was stabbed.

But this book’s genre is closer to women’s fiction/ historical fiction than thriller and mystery genres. There are such great, realistic portraits of women who were reluctantly found themselves in criminal world and they did what they had to do for surviving. The circumstances pushed them make wrong choices. They were just the unlucky women who were dealt with the shittiest hands. It was so easy to resonate with those flawed, heartbroken, tired characters who deserve second chances. You can feel their miseries, anger, sadness, resentments, fears. The author did a great job to combine different women stories harmoniously.

I read so many articles to define the fiction and real life events of this journey. Royal Navy Surgeon James Donovan and minister Rev. Roland Davies were truly on the for sailing to Rajah in 1841 as it is mentioned on the book. Kezia Hayter, 23 years old is also based on true character, who accompanied the women through their journey.

It was one of the heartbreaking, well researched, intriguing historical fiction with soul crushing real life women stories! It’s touchy, poignant, truly well written which deserves my four Australian, true story, sad, powerful stars!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,280 reviews35k followers
February 16, 2021
"Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need." - Ephesians 4:28

This book blends fiction and history to tell the story of the Rajah convict ship and its voyage in 1841 taking English female convicts to Tasmania - then Van Diemen's Island.

Here is a list of the real convicts aboard:

One hundred eighty Englishwomen board the Rajah in London, 1841. The women have committed petty crimes and are on a three-month voyage to Australia (Tasmania) where they will now reside. Most of their crimes were a result of doing what they needed to do to survive, to pay the bills, to defend themselves and feed their children. But there is one among them who has committed a more serious crime. One who will do anything to survive.

While on board the ships matron, Kezia Hayter has the women make a quilt called the Raja Quilt. It is now housed in the National Gallery of Australia. Can you imagine doing needlework on board a ship? I can barely put needle to thread on solid ground, I cannot imagine doing it while the ship rides the waves but that is what they did.

Toward the middle of the voyage Hattie, a young mother is mortally wounded. Someone on the ship is responsible, but who? As the women begin to be questioned, they also have questions themselves about their own safety, who might have reason to harm Hattie, and what will happen when they reach shore.

Hope Adams does a good job showing what life was like for the women onboard: cramped uncomfortable conditions, bad food, unhygienic conditions, seasickness, having to get along with others, secrets, missing their family and homes, being suspicious of their fellow convicts and unwanted attention (and sometimes wanted attention) from the sailors.

I appreciated that she gave the chapter headers, so we knew what character's POV was being given and when. Through the various POV's we learn more about the characters, their pasts, what lead them to be on board the Rajah and what they are doing in their present time of 1841.

Some of the characters in this book are based on the real-life people on board the Rajah, the author changed some of the convict’s names and others are a work of fiction. I enjoyed the story but also felt it could have been pared down a little in the middle. Hope Adams did her research and yet again I have learned a new piece of history from reading a book!

An interesting piece of work - the quilt and the book.

Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.

See more of my reviews at www.openbookposts.com
Profile Image for Blaine DeSantis.
901 reviews111 followers
November 12, 2020
First time author Hope Adams has a real winner in her debut historical fiction/mystery novel, Dangerous Women. This book is set in 1841 and follows the fates of 180 women who are being transported on the boat, Rajah, from jails in England to Van Diemen’s Land, which is present day Tasmania.
The trip takes 15 weeks and is told through the eyes of 3 or 4 main characters, as they recount the trip, as well as a stabbing assault that takes place upon the boat during this crossing. The book begins with the assault and then chapters go back and forth (titled conveniently as Then or Now), telling tales on how and why some of the ladies got to be part of the prisoner transport, as well as trying to solve the stabbing before arriving at Hobart.
What ties so much of this together is a sewing group that Matron Kezia Hayter establishes from Day One. The group is sewing a quilt that will be presented to the Governor of Van Diemen’s Land upon their arrival, and it is through this group of ladies that the stories unfold. None who are transported are supposed to have been convicted of murder, and yet one of these ladies has slipped through onto the Rajah. We can also sympathize with many of these convicts since their life situations placed them in a position that they had to commit criminal acts just to survive.
In addition to the ladies, the book also follows Matron Hayter, the ship’s captain Charles Ferguson, along with the ships physician and priest. These male characters come to the fore during the investigation as to the stabbing, while the victim lies in a coma. Was the attacker one of the ladies of the sewing group, one of the other convicts, or could it have been one of the sailors?
Throughout the book we get to view Matron Hayter as the rock that all these ladies rely upon, and we see the changes brought about due to the sewing circle and Hayter’s belief in forgiveness and compassion.
But first and foremost this is a compelling mystery, all wrapped around a group of lady convicts who are headed to an unknown future in a land they know nothing about. How could someone get ahold of a knife, what drove that person to the attack, and how can such an incident be solved when every woman on the boat is a convict which can lead to many suspects and also many lies and denials of acts on board.
History plays a main focus in this book, as the author has blended historical characters with a group of fictional ladies. There are dangerous women living in cramped quarters for 15 weeks. Nerves fray, alliances form, and love blooms in this fast paced, well written novel. This is a great page-turner that I finished in two days.
Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with a free Advance copy of this book in return for an honest review. This review was first posted at mysteryandsuspense.com
Profile Image for Whispering Stories.
2,640 reviews2,559 followers
March 17, 2021
Book Reviewed on www.whisperingstories.com

Dangerous Women is a fascinating story that blends a wonderful fictional story based on real historical events. In 1841 the Rajah convict ship set sail from London, UK to Tasmania, Australia, or as it was known back then, Van Diemen’s Land with 180 convicted criminal women onboard.

Whilst on their 105-day long journey some of the women began a sewing group and made a quilt, known as The Rajah Quilt which can be viewed online as it is still on show at The National Gallery of Australia.

Author Hope Adams has blended this real-life story and created a murder mystery in which one of the women shouldn’t have been there as she took the place of another passenger and another of the women, young Hattie, is murdered just over half-way through their journey, stabbed to death, leaving a young son behind.

The book is engrossing as no-one knows who the murderer is and an investigation is set up to try to find them, but everyone starts to suspect one another and new friendships become strained. As well as the mystery I loved the factual aspect of the Rajah, a ship I’d never heard of before. I knew about convicts being sent to Australia but nothing more.

The story began quite slowly and at the beginning, I had to make myself stick with it as I knew that the story would pick up. It is also written in two close-together timelines, ‘Then’ and ‘Now’. Both time periods give you the date, with the ‘Now’ also telling you how many days at sea the ship has been sailing. Plus we get to hear from the different women on the ship, including the Matron, the only female not a convict on board, Kazia Hayter, based on a real person of the same name.

The women and their stories all felt so real, so did their sorrow at leaving loved ones behind, knowing that for some of them they would never see their families again as there was no coming back from Australia. It is a remarkable book that once I had gotten through the first few chapters and worked out who each woman was I became engrossed and mesmerised by each of their stories as well as a need to know why Hattie had been murdered and would there be more killings.
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,688 reviews451 followers
October 22, 2022
In 1841, the Rajah transported 180 females convicted of petty crimes from England to Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania). Kezia Hayter was the matron on board in charge of the prisoners. She selected a group of them to work on a quilt as a bonding experience and a chance to develop their sewing skills. The Rajah Quilt is now hanging in the National Gallery of Australia.


Kezia recognized that poverty, abuse, and the need to feed their children were often reasons behind the women's crimes. A few of the women suffered from depression or other mental illnesses. She believed that the transportation to Australia was enough punishment, and that the women could be rehabilitated to lead productive lives. The women had to live under miserable conditions during the three month voyage.

A fictional serious crime involving one of the women in the sewing circle had everyone on edge since the perpetrator had to be onboard. Although I guessed the culprit, it was interesting to find out the backstories of the women's lives since more than one could have had a motive.

Many of the characters are based on real people, although most names have been changed since their descendants still live in Australia. I enjoyed learning more about Australian history, and especially liked Kezia Hayter as a character. 3.5 stars, rounded up.
Profile Image for Eva K (journeyofthepages).
116 reviews45 followers
March 2, 2021
Dangerous Women by Hope Adams started out so strong and I was initially gripped by the story! But the middle 60% of this book was too long, slow, scenically dark, one dimensional and frankly, boring. This is a classic "who-done-it" murder mystery but the scene and characters, while they are quite unique, were one dimensional. This story takes place during a 100+ day voyage aboard the Rajah, a massive prisoner transport ship traveling from the UK and Australia. The scenes are dark and drab while taking place below deck or within the confines of a ship. The prisoners are all women and as such the character list is predominantly women - which was great - there was a solid portrayal of strong independent women in a world where that was rare. Many important women's issues were addressed. The back stories were moving and interesting and I loved the unique historical events that this story was built on and this was truly like nothing I've read before. But as a thriller/suspense/murder mystery, it fell flat and moved too slowly. 

Thank you NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for a copy of this book for review! 
Profile Image for Darla.
3,340 reviews525 followers
February 5, 2021
The Rajah Quilt. It's mere existence is an enduring witness to the sisterhood that was established on this voyage from England to Van Diemen's Island in 1841. Nearly 200 female convicts are being sent to what is now Tasmania. These were women who had all been convicted of petty theft and other crimes not deemed worthy of capital punishment. A young woman named Kezia Hayter volunteers to be a matron on the ship for free passage. The Rajah Quilt was her vision and it was accomplished. An amazing feat. I cannot imagine doing my cross stitch projects on the deck of a ship on the high seas. In addition to highlighting the quilt, Hope Adams also gives us a mystery to solve. Many of the women have secrets. Is one of them willing to kill to keep hers? For a debut combining the genres of historical fiction and mystery, I thought this was exceedingly well done. The fabric descriptions before the chapters were intriguing. I do wish we could have seen a graphic as well. In the end, this book shows the amazing things women can accomplish together. It is also a story of redemption in more ways than one. If you love this, don't miss 'The Exiles' by Christina Baker Kline which features a similar voyage on the Medea. For those who love mysteries at sea, be sure to check out 'The Devil and the Dark Water' by Stuart Turton.

Thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Martie Nees Record.
672 reviews137 followers
October 19, 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery and Thrillers
Publisher: Berkley
Pub. Date: February 16, 2021


Let me start off by saying the Adams mixes the genres in this one. This is not the best nor the worst historical fiction that I have read. I always enjoy reading historical facts that reads like fiction, which you will find in this novel. The author takes us back to the year 1841. The story revolves around a true historical event. Approximately, 200 English women, who have been convicted for mostly petty crimes are released from their cells. The government places them on the real-life historical vessel named the “Rajah,” which will take them to Australia to start a new life. Adams does a good job showing us how many of the women were forced into a criminal life for survival. She also nails the dialogue/emotions between her characters on the ship with their bickering, their fears, and sometimes their kindness to one another. On their voyage, they create a real-life giant quilt, which now hangs in the National Gallery of Australia. The author explains that she has seen this Rajah Quilt and it was her inspiration to write this novel. The women received the quilt’s materials from the Ladies Society of England who were promoting the reformation of female prisoners. On the ship, there is a real-life character from this society who organizes the project. In the novel as well as in actuality she ends up marrying the captain—very sweet. The author surely did her research homework. Through the making of the quilt, we feel the women’s sorrows as well as their hopes, while enjoying their newfound friendships. I found all of this captivating. Getting back to the mixing of the genres, at the beginning of the book, on the ship, a young mother is killed. This subplot stays with us throughout the entire story. I did not think it was necessary and actually took away from the story rather than enhancing it. I kept skimming the murder mystery scenes to get back to the fascinating, old-fashioned, straight historical fiction. If the story stayed in that mode and didn’t throw in a “whodunit,” I would have enjoyed “Dangerous Women” so much more than I did.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Find all my book reviews at:

Profile Image for Missy.
311 reviews56 followers
February 16, 2022
This book is based on a true story about convict women sailing to Tasmania in 1842. It was interesting meeting these women who were not necessarily dangerous - basically they stole things - but because they were convicted of those crimes. Kezia is the female chaperone who gets a group of these women together to make a coverlet, to pass the time of the 105 days on the ship. When one woman is stabbed, the women are looked at being violent, but in the end it was more sorrow and grief. I enjoyed this book, learning about the women and why they were on the ship, their life before being convicted, and how they anticipated life after they landed back on land.

This is a new author to me, I believe her debut, and it was good. I had heard of convicts being sent to Australia to inhabit it, but not really of women convicts being sent there. The research she did was very well done. I would read another of her books again.

4 stars
March 26, 2021
This book was very mixed for me. Some parts I FLEW through, but then others really dragged and took me a while to get back to the gripping parts.
The start hooked me straight away but seemed to slow down many times and I would lose interest for about 20 pages until it gripped me again.
A really interesting premise and I have researched the Rajan quilt since reading this, which I think is a good sign.
Sadly, this just missed the mark.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,433 reviews828 followers
October 29, 2021
This is a richly imagined Victorian mystery, part fiction but also based on true life accounts. A ship load of convicted women are setting sail for Australia, never to return to their homeland again. When one of them is hurt, the hunt is on for the culprit- but everyone is guilty of something. Who can be trusted in such an atmosphere?! The mystery is obviously of the locked room variety as they are aboard a ship and the psychological aspects will keep you thinking- thought provoking! I loved the idea of the quilt they created while on board! An absorbing read! Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,179 reviews215 followers
March 4, 2021
I first heard about this book at Henley Literary Festival in 2019 when it was one of the debut novels featured at the Michael Joseph Proof Party, alongside Stephanie Wrobel’s The Recovery of Rose Gold (which I’ve since read and reviewed). At the time, Dangerous Women was due to be published in 2020 under the title Conviction. For various reasons, publication was delayed but the plot of Dangerous Women is largely unchanged from that which the author described at the time. Indeed the passage from the book which Hope read at the event can be found in the final version.

Dangerous Women is inspired by the real life voyage of the Rajah from London to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1841 during which many of the women prisoners, as in the book, worked on the embroidery of an elaborate quilt – now held in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

Although technically sentenced to transportation for a set number of years, for many of the women aboard the Rajah, it will be the last time they see England, leading to heartbreaking scenes as the ship departs. “The ones who have children will yearn for them. The ones who have living parents will fear their deaths, their sicknesses, and being unable to help them.” But it’s not the same for all the women. For Kezia Hayter, who her whole life has felt underappreciated by her mother compared to her sister Henrietta, it’s a chance to forge an independent path in life. Her appointment as Matron on the voyage is also an opportunity to contribute to a cause about which she feels strongly: the welfare and rehabilitation of female prisoners. From the outset Kezia feels sympathy for and a sense of responsibility towards those in her charge, coming to think of them as her women. She goes out of her way to encourage them and to defend them where necessary.

The convicts are perhaps fortunate in that both the captain of the Rajah, Charles Ferguson, and the ship’s surgeon, Mr. Donovan, hold relatively enlightened views. Like Kezia, they are prepared to recognise that circumstances – poverty, abuse, coercion – may have led the women to commit the crimes they have. Clergyman Mr. Davies, on the other hand, subscribes to the less generous view that the cause of the women’s crimes is sinfulness.

For the women chosen by Kezia to work on the patchwork quilt she has designed, it’s not only a means of learning a skill that may benefit them in their new lives but a chance to leave the confines of below decks where the other less fortunate convicts spend their days. It also becomes a shared endeavour. Despite their different backgrounds and life experiences, by the end of the voyage they have become, as the author so imaginatively describes it, “a patchwork of souls”.

Although we’re told the Rajah is transporting one hundred and eighty women, for narrative reasons the reader only really gets to know the eighteen women chosen by Kezia to work on the quilt, and even then only to varying degrees.  The plight of the remaining women and the cramped and claustrophobic conditions that must have existed below deck remain largely in the background, except for a vivid scene in which the Rajah encounters a storm. However, within the circle of women working on the quilt, the reader gets to see friendships formed and severed, stories shared and secrets revealed.

A vivid account of an epic voyage, Dangerous Women is also a cleverly constructed “locked room” mystery. As well as trying to work out who might have carried out the vicious attack that takes place early on in the voyage, I enjoyed looking out for clues to the identity of the individual onboard who is not entirely what they seem. To be truthful, the answer to the latter was revealed a little earlier than I expected but that still leaves plenty of dramatic events to unfold.  There are revelations that bring redemption for some and unexpected possibilities for others.
Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,780 reviews1,625 followers
March 4, 2021
Dangerous Women is a richly-imagined and extensively researched Victorian mystery. The novel opens in London where, in the wake of growing crime rates, the government begins to issue increasingly severe punishments for minor infractions. Thousands of men have already been sent to Australia, but now the government turns its attention to women of marriageable age. These women have no choice, and most will never return to England. Eighteen of the women become quilters on the Rajah convict ship sailing for what is now known as Tasmania in Australia from England in the spring of 1841. The group is among nearly 200 women convicts who are being sent to Van Diemen’s Land to serve out sentences for petty crimes, including Hattie Matthews and her son Bertie, and Clara Shaw, the woman who has taken another’s identity. Among the women are Captain Charles Ferguson, master of the Rajah; a pious but stern clergyman; and the cheery ship’s doctor. The quilt is the project planned by the matron for the voyage, 23-year-old Kezia Hayter, who seeks to teach the women skills they may use to support themselves on their release. It is intended to be presented to Jane Franklin, wife of the Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land on arrival. After weeks at sea, peace is broken when a prisoner is mortally stabbed. Trapped in the middle of the ocean, with a killer on board, a fraught investigation ensues. But as the truth behind the convicts’ original crimes comes to light, one question looms large. If everyone on the 'Rajah' is guilty of something, can anyone be trusted?

Part mystery, part inquiry, Dangerous Women is a riveting read, tracking Kezia and the ship’s officers as they interview the seven witnesses to the bludgeoning, with some recalling Hattie being fearful as she had received a warning to keep silent stitched into a square on fabric, and piece together the details surrounding the knife attack that left Hattie bleeding and unconscious on deck and gradually revealing the story that Clara has been hiding. The narrative is also deeply personal in its descriptions of the convict women, their past histories, their adjustments to living onboard a sailing ship, and their connections with one another as they stitch together fabric into a unified whole. Blending the authentic history of HMS Rajah and fictional embellishment in the form of a locked room-esque mystery, I was enrossed throughout. Exploring confinement, hope, and the terrible things we do to survive, this is a stunning debut from Hope Adams. It is a devastating and thought-provoking account of some of the most vulnerable women in history–women failed by society, their family and the law. The more we discover about these women and their lives before imprisonment, the more unputdownable the novel becomes. This is historical crime at its finest and most captivating—tackling modern themes of guilt, innocence and female agency by exploring a remarkable real-life event. It is a deft piece of fiction that interrogates as much as it entertains; an absorbing, visceral read about female anger, subservience and ultimately, strength. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Catalina.
771 reviews40 followers
February 16, 2021
The historical events behind this book sound quite interesting. Plus the cover is gorgeous!! But I am afraid I've found the story told in Dangerous Women boring. Ups :p

Dangerous women is primarily the story of Kezia Hayter: a genteel women involved with the Ladies Committee and their role in improving prison conditions for women. Kezia is portrayed in her many roles: as a matron - helping the convict women learn a useful skill and to bond in a hard situation: being transported to Tasmania; being the driving force behind the creation of the coverlet, and as a red blooded woman who falls in love with Charles, the captain of the Rajah. The convict women are extras in their own story. Luckily a few of them are named, especially those who worked on the coverlet. 2 of them (Hattie and Sarah/Clara) also get a background story and an active voice but that's only because they are instrumental in the creation of the second part of the plot: Hattie's stabbing and subsequent murder investigation.

Don't get me wrong, this is a nice little story that's going to please many. But as far as I am concerned it is boring because the plot is just a rehash of ideas read in plenty of other books; and also disappointing because the "dangerous women" have been relegated to the role of extras: unknown and voiceless women in life, unknown and voiceless after death too. Sad :/

*Book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the publisher for the opportunity.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
206 reviews9 followers
January 9, 2021
YESSS. I love a well researched historical fiction so this was a massive hit for me. I knew nothing of the Rajah quilt before this book and have been thoroughly entranced by the story of it - I cant wait to do my own research into it now!

The story itself is a great page turner, I felt that it moved at a really nice pace and the fictional aspect of the plot was exciting and a great murder mystery that kept me guessing throughout. A real joy to read. 5/5.
Profile Image for Bookphenomena (Micky) .
2,415 reviews385 followers
March 19, 2021
Suspense on the seas
Gritty themes

The cover of this book swept me away initally, followed by the synopsis. Reading the book totally lived up to my hopes and expectations. I would categorise this as a historical suspense. Its strengths partially lie in the fact that this story context is reality, the voyage of convicts being transported and occupying themselves by making a quilt. The other strength was the execution, the writing that transported me along with the passengers of the ship.

The story was told from the POV of the ship’s ‘matron’ Kezia, a 23 year old women of respectable background, there to oversee the female convicts on their way to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania). There were other POVs of some of the prominent convict characters. There was a stabbing some weeks into the journey (this is the the blurb, no spoiler here) and much of the story I spent speculating and getting it wrong.

This was very much a women’s book, about women, for women, understanding women of that era However, these women were ever at the mercy of men and it wasn’t set in a time where women were empowered so I wouldn’t necessarily call this a feminist read. However Kezia did have her moments of assertion among the leading men of the ship.

This was a compelling tale, with twists and turns. Ship life had all the smells, hardship and difficulty you might imagine but the description enhanced your sense of these womens’ existence. I would have loved an epilogue of what happened to these women after they got to their destination. I wanted to know if they really got their new chance.

We’re many small pieces, each of us different but now stitched together. A patchwork of souls.

If you love historical reads and/or if you love suspenseful reads, Dangerous Women will not disappoint. There are triggers in here for some and please check out other reviews or message me if you want details.

Thank you to Michael Joseph Books for the review copy.

Find this review at A Take From Two Cities Blog.
Profile Image for Flybyreader.
644 reviews154 followers
September 19, 2021
In 1841, 180 women convicted of different crimes got transported from UK to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) on board of a ship - The Rajah - to provide them a clean slate so they can start a new life. And on this very ship, these women created one of the most important and intriguing historical artifacts of Australia: The Rajah Quilt.

Dangerous Women tells the story of this extraordinary journey and the making of the quilt with a fictional blood-curdling murder committed on board. This mysterious crime raises questions about the women and their safety as the murder is investigated by the captain and other members of the crew in the middle of the ocean. As the long sea journey closes to an end, the mystery unveils itself and the quilt remains to be the only tangible link to this fantastic voyage.
I really enjoyed reading this intriguing crime fiction based on historical facts, recommended for everyone who loves historical fiction and women’s fiction in general.
Profile Image for Victoria Thompson.
Author 92 books2,140 followers
November 28, 2021
Fascinating look at a little known part of history.

Really interesting story woven seamlessly onto a historical event. I didn't know much about this topic and was totally engrossed.
Profile Image for Jan.
780 reviews254 followers
February 6, 2021
Bad girls at sea. Dangerous women is fiction based on fact. Set on a convict ship, the Rajah, transporting women convicts from the UK to Australia.
The author creates a claustrophobic feel of being imprisoned on a ship with hundreds of women, and with so many characters I found it extremely hard to tell them apart, even though she narrows it down to a group of fewer than 20 women, who form a sewing group to create a patchwork quilt to teach them sewing skills and to while away their time on the long journey.
A women is stabbed during the journey and the story begins to occupy two timelines then and now, now being after the attack and then, the beginning of the journey onwards. It is set over a period of a few months as it follows the course of the ships journey.
Essentially a who-dunnit, around 7 women who were nearby when the brutal attack happened fall under suspicion and are investigated by the ships Captain, Doctor, another man who I couldn't even work out who he was and the young matron in charge of the sewing women. There's a lot of confusion as to who is who and who has done what. Obviously as convicts the women have a lot of secrets and events in their past lives and as they are sailing towards what they hope will be a new life, many of them want to keep their past to themselves.
It is very gripping and had me turning page after page 'til late at night. I loved the setting on the convict ship, although I did find most of the women came across quite a bit more genteel than I would have expected.
There are plenty of plot twists and eventually the mystery of who has attempted to murder Hattie and why they may have done so is gradually revealed.
282 reviews
March 4, 2021
Take an otherwise fascinating piece of history, and turn it into an entire book of mind numbingly dull, excruciatingly repetitive, imagined conversations and thoughts that all sound like the same person (aka, the author).

Ridiculously bad and incredibly boring.
Profile Image for Deanne Patterson.
1,826 reviews88 followers
March 26, 2021
I am impressed with the research the author has put into this book.
This is a fictionalized version of true historical events.
Nearly two hundred women mostly from a underprivileged and poor background board a transport ship bound for Australia.
These women are on a voyage for almost three months to the other side of the world,
It starts out with one of the women being seriously injured at another's hand, will she survive her attack? Only time will tell. This woman has her young son with her on this voyage.
Each chapter has a woman reminiscing on her past, the good,the bad,the lack of caring they had and what has caused them to commit the petty crimes they are accused of. One is a murderess, was it justified? It really can be a mind game if you think too hard on it, the mental health of these women.
The women are questioned about the vicious attack on the woman, did anyone see it, where they on deck when it happened? A very psychological book delving into the minds of convicted women aboard the convict ship Rajah.
These women where in confinement upon the ship and all carried a secret that they need to keep to escape justice.
Who is the attacker and will the women have to continue to live in fear?
Highly recommended!

Pub Date 16 Feb 2021
I was given a complimentary copy of this book.
All opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Louise Wilson.
2,744 reviews1,617 followers
March 1, 2021
London, 1841: One Hundred and eighty English women file aboard the Rajah, embarking on a three month voyage to the other side of the world. They're daughters, sisters, mothers -- and convicts. Transported for petty crimes. Except one of them has a deadly secret, and will do anything for justice. As the Rajah sails further from land, the women forgr tenuous kinship. Until, a young mother is mortally wounded, and the hunt is on for the assailant before he or she strikes again.

There's a dew true Historical facts included in this debut novel: The Rajah, some of the characters and the quilt the women made. When one of the women gets violently stabbed, it's up to Captain
Charles Ferguson, Reverend Mr Davies and the ships surgeon, Mr Donovan to interview the women to try and find out who was responsibe. Told from multiple points of view, this story is interesting and gripping. We et a different perspective of how life was like on board the Rajah. This is a well written story that mixes fact with fiction.

I would like to thank #NetGalley, #PenguinMichaelJosephUK and the author #HopeAdams for my ARC #DangerousWomen in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Rachel.
2,081 reviews78 followers
November 23, 2020
Dangerous Women by Hope Adams is an excellent historical fiction that delves into the real-life transport of 180 women that were convicted of an array of crimes from England to, what is now called, Tasmania aboard The Rajah in 1841.

I knew of the transport of female citizens from England to Australia/NZ/Tasmania from prior books and research, but I had not specifically read anything about The Rajah. I found it fascinating to read about some of the actual individuals that traveled on the ship, as well as the stunning quilt that was sewn during their months out at sea.

I enjoyed the concept of interweaving a multitude of voices and characters into a flashback then and now timeline to help add to the additional murder/mystery that was infused into the historical fiction plot line. The way the author was able to take true events, true historic figures, and create a story that was all at once: gripping, poignant, sad, hopeful, suspenseful, and entertaining is impressive. It was hard to see how so many women ended up in this scenario through unlucky circumstances, necessity, and through no fault of their own. The small rays of hope and romance peppered in did help balance this out.

Through this book, I have already looked up several additional topics, and I am impressed with the author’s wonderful narrative that has inspired me to learn more.

5/5 stars

Thank you EW and Berkley for this ARC and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR, Instagram, and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 2/16/21.
Profile Image for Louise.
2,444 reviews46 followers
January 23, 2021
Two hundred women convicts on a ship bound for the other side of the world,and one of them is a murderer.
Biggest locked room mystery ever it seemed,until the cast of suspects was narrowed down considerably.
I really enjoyed this book,,and the fact it was based on mostly a true story. (I've googled and looked at the quilt)

Told over two timelines,the then and now,helps us get to know the characters better.
It was so refreshing not to have 101 plot twists,just a straight forward who dunnit.
The most laid back one I've ever read I think,when they were interviewing the women at such a leisurely pace.

Great read.
Profile Image for Margaret McCulloch-Keeble.
751 reviews10 followers
January 13, 2021
Normally books with many different character voices and/or switching from one period of a time to another doesn't phase me. This book however, had me beat. I found it very hard to figure out who was who and when. I tried hard but couldn't engage with it. I found it dreary.
Profile Image for Cathy Ryan.
1,158 reviews64 followers
February 12, 2021
Based on the very real 1841 voyage of the convict ship Rajah and including several historical characters, Dangerous Women is the story of a group of women, convicted mostly of petty crimes, being transported to Tasmania, then known as Van Diemen’s Land. The chapters alternate between ‘then’ and ‘now’ giving insights into the women’s individual situations, how and why they found themselves being deported. Many had been forced into petty thievery by controlling husbands or fathers. Others stole just in order to survive.

A long sea voyage stretches ahead, and as the ship leaves land behind a young mother is fatally stabbed. All the women come under suspicion, along with the ship’s company, and one had a secret she would keep at all costs. The investigation into the stabbing is conducted by Captain Ferguson, the minister, ship’s surgeon and Kezia. Everyone is on edge with the thought of a murderer aboard, especially as none of the women were convicted of that particular crime and, of course, there’s nowhere to run.

The women began to form tentative friendships, several brought closer together as they joined the sewing group organised by Kezia Hayter, one of a group promoting the reformation of female prisoners, who has volunteered to look after the women during the voyage. Armed with a bag full of donated scraps of material Kezia persuades a number of the women to help with the creation of a quilt, with the hope of giving the women a sense of purpose and pride in their work. The end result would be gifted to the governors when they arrived at their destination.

Dangerous Women is a wonderfully fascinating representation of an historical event I knew nothing about. The punishment and treatment the women suffered for the crimes they committed was very harsh, tearing them away from families and everything familiar to send them halfway across the world, into the unknown.

The dialogue is realistic, in keeping with the characters and their situations, and the interaction between the women is just what you would expect, with squabbles and frayed tempers, as well as humorous moments. Chapters from several viewpoints work well and help to flesh out the characters.

Hope Adams has produced an impressive, extremely well written and researched debut, compelling not only because of the truth of the story but also the vivid imagery of the setting.

The Rajah Quilt is now on display in the National Gallery of Australia and the author states she has changed the names of certain convicts because descendants of the real women still live in Australia.
Profile Image for Bookworm Blogger.
654 reviews19 followers
April 20, 2022
I’d like to thank NetGalley and Michael Joseph for approving me for an ARC of this book.

Set onboard the Rajah this story is told from the POV of three women, Kezia, Clara and Hattie during their 15 week voyage. Towards the end of the journey a horrendous crime is committed against one of the women and through these POV we learn what happened that fatal night.

What struck me first was the fact that all these women were onboard the Rajah because they had committed petty crimes, their punishment was to be sent to Australia to start a new life. I couldn’t believe some of the crimes that had landed these women here especially when compared to our justice system today.

Whilst this story primarily focused on our three narrators we soon learnt more about the other women and what had brought them to the Rajah. In most cases their crimes were committed in desperation and quite often the women themselves were also victims. I really enjoyed getting to know all of the women and felt that they had created a lovely community by the time they reached Australia. Of all the women Clara was my favourite. Her life and reason for being on the ship had a lot of mystery to it and I really enjoyed how her story in particular unfolded.

Whilst the events on board the Rajah were fictional this story was based on real events. Hope Adams masterfully weaves fact and fiction creating a beautiful story rich in history and friendships. I thought for a moment that I had worked out the ending but Hope Adams had a fantastic a chilling twist waiting to surprise me!

March 10, 2021
Dangerous Women by Hope Adams was published March 4th with Penguin Michael Joseph. Based on the real-life 1841 voyage of the convict ship Rajah from London to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), Dangerous Women is described as an historical thriller, ‘a tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.’

Hope Adams was inspired to write Dangerous Women when she first came across the Rajah Quilt in 2009 at an exhibition at the V&A. The Rajah Quilt is a large quilt that was made by female prisoners en-route from London to Australia by ship in 1841 and is currently to be found on display at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Using the Rajah as her backdrop Hope Adams, with a mix of fact and fiction, adds a more sinister element to the voyage.

The Rajah was carrying a bunch of women from London, all convicts, imprisoned for minor demeanours, all being transported in servitude to Van Diemen’s Land until their sentences were up. Alongside them was Kezia Hayter, a young woman who wished to leave behind the trappings of society’s expectations and see more of the world. Kezia’s role on board the ship was a matronly one. She was there if the women needed assistance and to bolster their camaraderie and general health with song and activities. With a very long journey ahead of them, many of these women would struggle being at sea, so Kezia selected a number of them to assist her in a project. They were going to design a special quilt as a gift to Van Diemen’s Land for accepting them in their country. It was in recognition of the second chances being offered to all these women.

During the voyage many were mouthy and the occasional tussle was nothing unusual but an unexpected scream and a bloody scene was a shock to all. One of the women, a mother, was stabbed, left to die. Nobody saw it. There were no witnesses, no one to point the finger at. No one to shout murderer at. The Captain takes immediate charge and sets up an on-board inquisition to unearth the perpetrator. Kezia is selected as part of this investigation but she cannot understand how any of her charges could have done this.

As the ship continues it’s sailing through the high seas, the climate both above and below deck changes. An underlying fear, a sense of mistrust forms among the passengers. Which one of these women is guilty and why? Kezia continues to maintain a sense of order among the women and the sewing of the quilt continues to add structure and distraction to their days but, with every role of the sea and, as they get nearer their final destination, the killer remains hidden.

Dangerous Women is a locked room mystery. We have a body, we have a ship alone out at sea, a crew and a list of passengers. One of them is responsible for a heinous crime, but who? Hope Adams explores the sense of confinement, the dark shadows, the mistrust and the friendships that develop among these women. They are primarily an uneducated group of women, some hiding secrets, many ashamed of their beginnings in life. In Van Diemen’s Land a new slate awaited them but if the murderer wasn’t caught, what would happen to them all? Someone had to hang for this crime.

Dangerous Women is an interesting read but I was expecting something less gentle, a little more desolate. These were petty criminals, many hardened women and, in some cases, their edges felt a little too soft, too rounded for the experiences they have had. They have a murderer amongst them and I thought they would be tougher in their reactions, a bit more colourful in their language perhaps. The Rajah Quilt is very much central to this tale and to be honest, the murder mystery felt almost a distraction to their work on the piece. Hope Adams is obviously very much enthralled by the quilt and using it as part of the plot was a great idea but I was definitely expecting a much darker read when I embarked on my journey.

Dangerous Women is very much a book about new beginnings and developing new relationships. It had an unexpected gentleness that really did surprise me and some very fascinating historical insights. I have since looked up further information on The Rajah Quilt and it really is a work of art, an amazing piece of work. A very insightful book from a historical fiction perspective, Dangerous Women is a snapshot of a time and place, when the world was changing but when women were still treated with very little respect and dignity. Dangerous Women is an enjoyable read, a locked room mystery of murder on the high seas.

“I have tried to be as faithful as possible to the real events of the voyage. It’s very well-documented. We have Kezia’s diaries, the Captain’s Log, the Surgeon Superintendent’s log and the names, crimes and physical descriptions of all 180 convict women. I have used none of the convicts’ names, because their descendants are still alive and well in Australia and especially Tasmania. Also, because this is a novel and not a history book, I have added a thriller element to my story, a ticking clock: will whoever stabbed one of the women be discovered and brought to justice before the ship docks in Hobart? Most of my characters and what happens on board the Rajah in the book are my invention. In real life, this was a very peaceful and uneventful voyage with very little illness and only one death from natural causes. But Dangerous Women is a novel and my ambition is that all Adèle Geras’s readers will enjoy it.” – Hope Adams/Adele Geras
Profile Image for Vikki Patis.
Author 10 books183 followers
December 24, 2020
Dangerous Women is an excellent example of female-led historical fiction. Based on a true story, it depicts the lives of almost 200 women sentenced to transportation to Tazmania, and the coverlet they created during the crossing under the guidance of Kezia Hayter. Though they lived in a world governed by men, these women, their lives and motivations are in the very centre of this story, accompanied by a fictional murder.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 572 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.